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With a population of almost 185 million [latest government figures] Brazil is the sixth most populous country in the world. Most of the population is concentrated along the coast and in the cities. The interior of Brazil is one of the most sparsely populated areas of the world, despite the creation of the new capital of Brasilia almost in the centre of the country.

Two-thirds of Brazilians live in nine major urban centres: Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Porto Alegre, Salvador, Recife, Fortaleza, Brasilia and Belem. Greater Sao Paulo has over 17 million inhabitants, Greater Rio, more than 10 million.

It is impossible to describe what a typical Brazilian looks like. Most Brazilians have a combination of European, African, Amerindian, Asian and Middle Eastern ancestry. This racial mix is due to the various waves of immigration, voluntary or otherwise, together with the original Indian population of the region. The original explorers often married local women, creating the first racial mix. Vast numbers of slaves were brought over from Africa to work on the sugar and coffee plantations; children born of plantation chiefs and slaves were very common. The end of slavery, in 1888, saw the voluntary immigration of many Europeans, particularly Italians, with a significant number of Spanish and Portuguese. Japanese immigration began in 1908 and today Sao Paulo has the largest Japanese population outside Japan. The liberation of Portuguese Africa saw another great influx of Portuguese to Brazil and many other nationality groups came to Brazil throughout this century to escape political or religious persecutio n. It is possible, when travelling through Brazil, to notice the various influences in different regions of the country. In the south, where many Germans and Poles settled, it is still possible to find people speaking German as their mother tongue.